"I have the world to thanks to Nobuo because he first introduced me to this," Sega says, referring to the skill of crafting a personalized meal for -- at least sometimes -- complete strangers based on minimal amounts of information. In other words, the art of omakase. In Japanese, omakase means, "I'll leave it to you," or translated into restaurant lingo something like "Chef's choice." To order omakase at a Japanese restaurant means allowing the chef to choose what dishes he thinks best represent his skill set and ingredients at that time.
From the outside in, it's a pretty impressive feat. If you've ever experienced a great omakase dinner, then you know it can seem like the chef knows what you like better than you do.
"It's a rhythm," says Sega as he lays out a selection of different-size plates and a pile of smooth river stones, preparing to share his thought process when creating the feasts.
He pulls a rectangular plate in front of himself and places four stones on the plate. While doing so, he explains that he might start with one of the restaurant's signature appetizers, for example, the butterfish tataki (represented, for demonstration purposes, by the plate and four stones). He then selects a different plate explaining that since the tataki would have been a cold dish with a horizontal orientation, he would next want to present another cold dish, but of a different visual orientation. He would consider the texture of the food, potential wine or sake pairings, and whether or not the customer seemed to enjoy the first dish.